I have been thinking about the last year as I have been finishing up my web pages and other requirements. I realize that I really did not know what to expect when I began this program, and it's always been a little unclear where I was heading. But as I am finishing up the program its really exciting that I really do feel like I have accomplished something this year. My goal for this program was to become a better teacher, but after Touro my goals have expanded to helping myself and others to become better teachers as well. While I will always be striving to improve, I do believe that I am a better teacher now than I was a year ago because of this program. But watching my classmates do incredible things in their classrooms and investigate really interesting and important challenges in teaching has inspired me to continue pushing myself to be better, keep learning more about education, and to expand my range of influence. Who knows, maybe I'll get another masters in a few years.....maybe not.
As a Jewish person who has never attended a Jewish school until this year, I have found it to be a really wonderful experience. Besides actually having my holidays off, I have been able to see Judaic principles of community service and social justice in action. With my own research I hope to spread a higher respect for our students. I believe that we as teachers need to be more willing to have conversations with our students about what, why, and how we teach. It is only when are willing to do this will our students become more informed, active participants in their own education. I think these ideas show respect for human dignity, encourages students to become life long learners, and is absolutely a student centered methodology.
Eventually I hope to publish the research I have done this year and to spread my ideas in that way. I will also continue to use the skills I gained this year and continue investigating what works best in my classroom through small action research cycles of my own. While this year has been a lot of work I feel like I am a better teacher because of it, and I want to push myself to continue getting better next year.
TPACK is an educational theory that suggests that students’ needs are met most when their teachers combine their knowledge of technology, pedagogy, and the content they teach. This year I have paid close attention to the TPACK framework while designing and planning my action research as well as individual lessons.
My research this year focused on creating a pedagogical framework that engages students so they can better learn the content they are being taught. This framework focuses on providing students with consistent opportunities to make meaningful decisions about their work. As the pedagogical framework created through my research is applicable to any content area, I mainly focused on the technological and pedagogical aspects of TPACK when planning my research. I then combined that framework with my content knowledge to create the assignment my students completed.
Providing elementary aged students with opportunities to make decisions can be precarious; offer too many options and students won’t have enough support and structure, offer too few options and students will feel like they are only making token decisions. To solve this problem I used my technological knowledge of hyper-docs to limit the amount of options my students were exposed to. This, combined with my content knowledge about the California Gold Rush, the topic of my students’ research, allowed me to easily create a document that my students could interact with, choose sources to use for their research from, and yet not be overwhelmed or distracted by the vastness of the internet.
As a teacher I have always felt that my students should be my highest priority. Of course I care about all students, but my priority and focus has always been on my students. Throughout the process of reading other teachers' inspiring research and conducting research of my own, however, I have realized that I can be both a catalyst for positive changes in other classrooms as well as my own without sacrificing the quality of my students' education. This, in short, is the primary goal of my research.
By targeting other elementary school teachers as my primary audience I can widen the sphere of influence my research on engagement has from the confines of my classroom to potentially students all over the world. While teachers are my primary audience, I do always want to save something for the kids!
I believe it is important to involve students in the discussions and decisions that teachers use to form their pedagogy so that students can better understand and contribute to the learning process. In loyalty to my students and to this idea of inclusion there is also a small section of my research for whom elementary aged students are the intended primary audience. This, I believe, is the best way to help foster engagement in other classrooms, while still prioritizing and respecting students as active participants in their own education.
This year has been a very interesting experience in terms of how a group of people can work together. I am so glad that we use Zoom for our classes, rather than other traditional online classes which have very little human interaction. I have found that discussing the concepts taught in the class and hearing about my classmates struggles and successes has been very helpful and comforting to me as I have also encountered struggles and successes. My hope for this term is that the sense of us "all being in this together" will continue to grow, and I have no reason to believe that will not be the case.
At the same time, I'm not going to lie, I really have struggled with the group projects. I am a bossy teacher and I am used to having my little empire and I find the process of creating something with others to be more stressful than helpful. But I promise I am not the total grinch that I sound like. I really do love giving and receiving feedback from my classmates on anything that I have created. I really admire the members of my cohort and have gotten excellent ideas and inspirations from them all year long. I think one thing that has helped me a lot is reading others' blogs and receiving responses on my blogs. Both the blogs and responses have been very thoughtful and have greatly influenced the decisions I have made thus far regarding my research.
In order to continue developing our group cohesion I will do what I know my other cohort members will do. As we enter into the final stage of this program, I will continue to give thoughtful and constructive feedback which focuses on what is being done well and what changes can be made to make something even better. I believe that open, honest, and supportive communication is most important for group cohesion and I think it is something that our cohort has done really well! I truly feel very lucky to have fallen into this course with this group of people, and while I am overwhelmed by the amount of work left to do, I look forward to seeing what each of us is able to create by July!